We are all shaped by our environment, we are products of the world around us. The people we spend time with, talk to, seek opinions of. They influence us. The places we travel to, the new perspective of environment changes us. Many see this in a large context but struggle with it in the personal. The most important factor in student learning? The teacher in front of the room. Why? They create the environment for learning, or not learning. Why do parents sweat over school and teacher choice? We know that these choices have impact. Has the environment of standardized testing in primary and secondary schools changed education? You betcha. (I’m Minnesotan). Yet when it comes to food and environmental change we struggle. It’s personal in a different way. Be it socially, intellectually, emotionally, politically, foodily, we are a reflection of the place that surrounds us.
From Jane Brody’s recent piece in the New York Times on environment and sweetened beverages:
“Children in the United States consume on average three times as many calories from sugar sweetened beverages compared to Dutch children.”
Care to guess how the bodyweight and BMI of children in the U.S. compares to those in the Netherlands?
“Sugar sweetened drinks, the single largest source of calories in our diet, account for nearly half of the total added sugars we consume and 7 percent of our total calories – nearly 15% in some groups, including adolescent boys….the average student consumes 31 pounds of sugar in sweetened beverages annually.”
31 pounds of sugar in beverages alone. That is not counting all the other food. In a recent study young women who consumed one or more sweetened beverages per day doubled their risk of developing type II diabetes compared to women who drank one per month. A fascinating tidbit here, women who consumed sugar sweetened beverages increased their caloric consumption form other foods throughout the day. That’s right, they ate more as a result of the soda. Not only did they not account for the calories in the drink, they went and ate even more. The authors speculate that sugar sweetened beverages may “induce hunger and food intake.”
Anybody want to argue the power of food environments? I’m ready anytime. Ms. Brody points out that there are numerous individuals in New York City who are still fuming about the drink size regulations recently passed there, arguing that change should come about through only educational efforts. Why didn’t I think of that? Teaching would be so much easier. All I need to do is stand up in front of my classes and tell them what to know and they’ll know it. Even better, simply tell them what I know. Really? The environment matters and when it comes to food our environment sucks. But don’t touch it, we says, that’s socialism. Guess what happens when teachers create an environment of true learning, developing a relationship with the students in the room, getting creative, not lecturing? Students learn. Guess what happens when children’s consumption of soda is limited? They lose weight. Guess what happens when the limits are taken away. They gain weight. Funny.
“It (research study) suggests that if we want long term changes in bodyweight, we will need to make long term, permanent changes in the environment for children,” says David Ludwig, author of a recent study on sugary drinks. Let me add to Dr. Ludwig’s thoughts, changing one word, if we want long term changes in bodyweight, we will need to make long term, permanent changes in the environment for adults. Yes, even as adults we can’t outwit our environment when it comes to food. We have a problem with food. We need regulation, bans on double big gulps and the like. Sincerely, we do.
I have found one place that takes my best interests in food environment to heart, my fitness center. Here is the sign I ran into just this morning:
Good to know I can find healthy food. Oops, then I walked ten feet to my right and looked in the darkened cafe of said fitness center. This is what I saw:
Maybe this is what my fitness center meant by cage free and organic. Can a supplement or an energy bar be truly cage free? If it’s here, it’s healthy, and if it’s here, grab a supplement. Things that make you go hmmmm.
Finally, it’s Friday and we need a food rule. Harkening back to yesterday’s post here’s the rule as we head to the weekend: Don’t buy baked goods at Walgreen’s. That’s why we have bakeries. Don’t want to go to the bakery for your cookies? Good, then don’t eat the cookies. My daughter told me that once.
That’s all. Happy Friday.